I knew a long time ago that I would be writing this episode. I just didn’t realize how long it would run.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
High-Stakes Hide & Seek (part 1)
I’m sure the junta has a file on me as a “member of the opposition.” But I’m more interested in helping people on an individual level than tearing things down at the governmental level — so local officials (I presume) give me a little leeway. Pat-Riots don’t make fine distinctions… but even while they don’t put many people between “us” and “the enemy,” the category of “people who don’t share my views but helped out my kin” lands pretty close to “us.”
Being a Pat-Riot, I have to say, has its hazards, especially outside the South. Here, there’s a long tradition of vigilante groups getting up in other people’s business, but that doesn’t make them universally loved. Sammy has told funny stories about 'Riots falling off ladders or even getting frozen to ladders, as they try to peek into “suspects’” second-story windows. Needless to say, the spied-upon can be rather slow to call 911 when they find a 'Riot injured in the bushes or stuck 10 feet off the ground… if they even go outside to check on what the commotion is all about. Even those who otherwise support the junta and their agenda often (privately) think the Patriot Clubs are an exercise in overreaching.
So when a Pat-Troll came to round up Guillermo’s family yesterday, several people let us know in advance and we were ready.
Our first stall tactic was to hang the steel cable across the driveway. The Riots skidded in the gravel, blared their horn for a few seconds, then one of them got out and unhooked it. Up the driveway they came, slinging gravel… in an old green H2 with a flashing red light bar. They had magnetic signs reading “OFFICIAL BUSINESS” slapped on the sides. Going for impressive, managing only pathetic.
They stopped at the front door and climbed out, leaving the light bar going and carrying crowbars. I pointed and laughed at their vehicle. “What junkyard did you find that piece of crap in?” I asked. “I hope you pushed it here. I’d hate for y’all to waste my tax money gassing it up!”
“Look you—” the smaller one snarled, raising his crowbar. He got one step before his partner put a hand on his shoulder.
“Not now,” he murmured; maybe he meant for me to hear it. He looked at me and said, “We are here on suspicion that you are harboring a gang of Mexicans, in violation of the Latino Repatriation Act of 2014.”
“Yeah,” the other one chimed in. “We’re authorized to search this house and detain anyone who can’t show proof of citizenship. I guess we can start with you.”
“You don’t have to search this place,” I said, twisting my hand and waving. They just looked at me… too young to be Star Wars fans, I guess. “There’s me, and I’ll bring out my birth certificate in a minute. My wife was born here in the county, and Kim and Serena were assigned to us as wards last winter. Und I vill get zee paiperzz for us shortly.”
“We’re gonna search, all right,” the little one said, slapping a palm with his crowbar. “And we’re gonna have a real close look at your proof of citizenship. Disrespect us and see what happens.”
“I don’t know if I’ll let you in my house or not,” I said. “Who ‘authorized’ this search? Do you have proof of your authorization, maybe a warrant or something?”
The little Riot got his response cut off by his partner. “Look,” he said. “I can understand you want to protect them — they’re your slaves, or servants, whatever. But the law’s the law, and we’re deputized to investigate violations of the law.
“And you’re right — we don’t have to search. Just bring ’em out and we’ll take them off, and we’ll forget the harboring charges.”
I’m still not sure if they were deliberately doing a good cop-bad cop routine or not. The little guy didn’t look like he had the brains to put on an act, anyway. “So who are these people I’m supposed to be harboring?”
Good Riot sent Bad Riot to the Dummer, and he returned with a clipboard. “Guillermo Cardenas, approximate age 34, male. Maria Cardenas, approximate age 32, female. Rene—” he pronounced it Reen “—Cardenas, age 12, male. And Christina Cardenas, age 10, female.”
“Oh, no wonder I was confused,” I said. “You mentioned a gang. They’re a family. Yup,” I nodded. “They were here. But they cleared out last fall… um, in October, I think.”
“What?” Bad Riot nearly dropped his crowbar. “What kind of horseshit is that?”
“Guillermo said he didn’t want to cause any trouble,” I said. “Said they were going to Atlanta to get an exit permit, or whatever they call those things. It was supposed to let them travel to the nearest border point… I guess in Texas somewhere.”
Bad Riot shook his head, and Good Riot started at the clipboard. “Well…” Good Riot stammered, “um… our infor— our information must be a little out of date. In that case, we could just look around and verify they’re gone?”
“Yeah,” Bad Riot said, getting back on familiar territory. “If you ain’t got nothin’ to hide, you shouldn’t have a problem—”
At that moment, Mrs. Fetched came around the side of the house with Kim, Serena, and the new herd dog (Butthead went to the Great Porch in the Sky a couple months ago). The dog took one look at the 'Riots and went into attack mode, and Kim barely caught his collar. The dog barked and thrashed, trying to get at the 'Riots, and the way Mrs. Fetched held her hoe suggested that she wouldn’t mind weeding out a couple of 'Riots herself. Serena put down her bucket and took a “ready” stance that I recognized from long-ago karate lessons. Kim looked at me and then at the dog.
I shook my head at them. “Ah,” I said to the 'Riots. “Here’s my wife and the kids I mentioned earlier. Are they white enough for you?”
Good Riot sighed, keeping an eye on the dog. “That’s not what we’re about,” he lied. “But this is already taking too long. We’ll waive proof of citizenship for y’all, if you’ll let us search the house now.”
“Well… you’ve already requested my papers, and I agreed to get them. After all, I’m a little more tan than the rest of my family, and your informant might have mistaken me for a Latino. After you check it, if you leave the crowbars in the shitmobile there, you can have a look around. I don’t want any ‘accidental’ holes in my walls.”
Good Riot cut off Bad Riot’s protest. “Fine. Get your certificate.”
“Will do. Let me tell them what’s up though. It’ll only take another second.” I trotted over to the corner. “Go over there and keep them entertained for a minute,” I told Mrs. Fetched, jerking a thumb at the 'Riots as they tossed their crowbars into the truck. “Kim, Serena, you kids stay back here. But if they try any funny business…”
“Cry ‘havoc’ and loose the dog of war?” Serena chuckled. She looked at the dog, no longer trying to get loose but still growling at the 'Riots.
“Yeah.” I trotted back to the front door. “Back in a minute,” I said as Mrs. Fetched ambled over.